August 7, 2015 Emmy Graber Spotlight

The Shocking Effects of Pollution on Your Skin

Here at MDC, we would love to think that we have all the answers for you. However, there are certain issues that require the insight of a pro. Today we asked Boston-based dermatologist Emmy Graber to help us get to the bottom of a major skincare (and general environmental) concern: pollution.

Anytime pollution is created — for example, smoke from a power plant or exhaust from a car — tiny nanoparticles are released into the air. While you might not see these nanoparticles, they are definitely present and, when in contact with your skin,  can cause damage that you can’t immediately see but will become evident years later!  How does this happen and what can you do about it? 

The Effects of Pollution on Your Skin
The How Factor

When nanoparticles hit the skin, they cause something called oxidative stress, which results in free radical formation (if you’re not quite sure what free radicals are, read this). If you're not properly protected, free radicals can do the following: 

  • Weaken the skin and make it thinner.
  • Negatively affect the skin’s collagen, which is really its backbone. Without healthy collagen, skin will look wrinkled and saggy.
  • Damage blood vessels, resulting in red, blotchy skin.
  • Increase melanin production and lead to brown discoloration of the skin.

The city bus you walked past yesterday that emitted all that smoke isn’t going to make your face look bad today but, over time, repeated exposure to pollution is going to have a negative impact on your skin.

The Prevention Factor

Antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E, can be used to help combat free radicals. They can be consumed in vitamin or supplement form or applied topically.  Many skin products such as creams, serums and facial washes contain antioxidants to protect your skin from this specific type of damage as well as premature signs of aging. You can also include antioxidant-rich foods like tomatoes, grapes and green tea to help you in your fight against pollution.

Product Recommendation: SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+, Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Face Wash, The Body Shop Vitamin C Daily Moisturizer

Get more skin-saving advice with these tips and tricks!

Photo: thinkstock



    About the Author: Dr. Graber is a Boston-based dermatologist specializing in acne, acne scars and cosmetic dermatology.